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WA Euthanasia Proposal Fatally Flawed

The final report of the Ministerial Expert Panel appointed by the  Western Australian Labor Government includes 33 recommendations for yet another fatally flawed experiment with assisted suicide and euthanasia that would put vulnerable Western Australians at risk of wrongful deaths.

The proposed scheme would allow for broader access than in Victoria with the key eligibility criteria to include that "death is reasonably foreseeable for the person within a period of 12 months". This recommendation borrows the language of the Canadian law where it has been given a very broad interpretation in the courts. This is significantly broader than the Victorian law which requires that death be expected within six months (or 12 months for neurodegenerative conditions).

The proposed WA scheme would also allow euthanasia - where a doctor or nurse practitioner injects the person with a lethal substance - more readily than in Victoria, where this is limited to those persons who are assessed as "physically incapable of self-administering". In Western Australia, it is proposed that it be a matter of "clinical determination" between  the doctor or nurse practitioner and the person as to whether assisted suicide or euthanasia is more "suitable for the person". the factors to be considered include any matter the clinician or person sees as "necessary to the decision making".

Evidence from other jurisdictions such as the Netherlands and Canada shows that where both options are available the overwhelming majority of people prefer euthanasia and that the per capita rate of euthanasia and assisted suicide is significantly higher than in jurisdictions, such as Oregon, where only assisted suicide is lawful.

Myth of the 68 safeguards

 With 68 safeguards, the Voluntary Assisted Dying framework is the safest, and most conservative, in the world.”

Andrews government media release

The factoid that Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 has “68 safeguards” has been mindlessly echoed by a compliant mass media obviously incapable of doing basic research.

  • SBS reports that “Victorian adults … who meet 68 safeguards can request their doctor's help in dying.”
  • ABC AM reports that the “68 safeguards” will “ensure only eligible patients can die with medical help.”
  • AAP managed to turn the “68 safeguards” into “68 criteria” reporting that “terminally ill Victorians who meet 68 criteria will be able to ask their doctor for access to a lethal concoction of drugs”.
  • 4BC opines that there are “68 strict safeguards and conditions that patients must meet before they can be given approval to access voluntary assisted dying.”

Has any reporter (with the notable exception of Peta Credlin, from Sky News) bothered to track down and examined the actual list of 68 alleged safeguards?

Geriatrician warns of new risk to elderly Victorians

Associate professor and geriatrician Mark Yates has warned that elderly Victorians now face the additional burden of choosing to continue with life or to have it terminated. He warns that the legalisation of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Victoria from 19 June 2019 now puts the elderly - 10 to 15 per cent of whom already experience abuse - at an additional risk of being coerced or persuaded to request or ingest a deadly poison under the new law.

American Medical Association reaffirms position that assisted suicide is unsafe

The American Medical Association has decisively reaffirmed its position that:

Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.

At the annual meeting of its House of Delegates delegates voted 392-162 (that is 70% for; 30% against) to retain the policy unchanged.

Most terminally ill cancer patients have impaired capacity

In a landmark study of decision making capacity of persons with terminal cancer and a prognosis of less than six months to live – that is a cohort that would be eligible for assisted suicide under the schemes in Oregon and other US States as well as in Victoria, Australia – 90% were found to be impaired in regard to at least one of the four elements of decision making – Choice (15% impaired), Understanding (44%), Appreciation (49%) and Reasoning (85%).

Under Victoria’s Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017, for example, “a person is presumed to have decision-making capacity unless there is evidence to the contrary” (Section 4(2)).

This study suggests that, at least in the case of persons with cancer and a prognosis of less than six months to live, it would be more prudent to start from the presumption that they are likely to have impaired decision making capacity unless it is demonstrated to the contrary.

Euthanasia for victims of rape

It has been widely reported that a 17 year old girl was  euthanased on Sunday 2 June 2019 at her home in Arnhem, the Netherlands,  on the grounds of her suffering as a victim of rape. However, later reports indicate she died from starvation/dehydration after refusing to eat with the intention of ending her life.

Noa Pothoven had been the victim of rape on three separate occasions between the ages of 11 and 14 years.

Australian Care Alliance